Oh dear, I seem to have found myself in a bit of a pickle. The subject not only difficult but also sensitive. The point is neither to find the meaningfulness of being a German – although some would consider this sort of reflection interesting and valuable – nor the rightfulness of Germans’ presence in Poland. However I would like to ponder about my own experience – is there any point in behaving like a German in everyday life? In other words: In a foreign, while rapidly adapting society, to what extend should we keep to our distinct, - form natives’ point of view - sometimes odd or alien ways?
Moreover, I have to emphasize one point I would rather not be a part of, for me a bit suspicious group of expiates. Why? Because I can’t help this feeling that essentially they consider themselves and their culture as superior and certainly quality-wise above average of the country in which they are currently “quartering”, and behaving as a foreign army. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the society and belong to its community as an equal and valued individual, who is treated with neither over the top distance nor ridiculous kindness.
But despite my sincere wish it isn’t easy here. According to its national martyrdom Poles create something like community of “chosen ones worse” and are of the opinion that foreigners can’t be (or even desire to be) a part of it. Of course barely anybody wants that, I believe that many Poles don’t. I personally know loads of people who throughout their entire lives tried to deal with so called “Polishness” The point is they can’t succeed as long as they assume that nobody except from them – allegedly cursed Poles – can really understand their situation, because that is exactly what makes them forever cursed.
Another problem is that it is said that Germans generally can’t speak Polish really well, their origin is always apparent. It could be true to some extend because Polish is a “two man job”, in order to convincingly use it, it’s necessary to engage in everyday life matters and get dirty with them allowing our own emotions to grow and diffuse. It would be easiest for people who have responsive attitude to enigmatic and a little ideologically drowsy reality, even if they can’t be the best wheeler- dealers in the world. It’s well known or rather people keep calling it: schematic, because of a certain misunderstanding or a simple spite – average German attitude doesn’t fit. But be careful: First chancellor RFN Konrad Adenauer is famous for his statement that he generally doesn’t care about what he said yesterday. And honestly speaking I do not remember ever hearing “Ordnung muss sein” in Germany or among Germans (for real); on the other hand in Poland I hear it at least once a day almost as a greeting. Which makes them rather diverted polish words of wisdom.
But at last to the point: are there any benefits from “German” behavior in Poland? Yes, when it comes to work attitude and good reputation – especially in occupations where value and precision, trust and reliability are appreciated. I’m under the impression that many Poles treated me with extensive kindness and offered me a measurable amount of confidence even before they have realized I would comply. Although when it comes to driving I have some doubts – although supposedly (attention: auto – stereotype) sensible driving will always do us good, I believe it’s not an overstatement that too distinct driving style can also create dangerous situations, especially when according to local customs officious drivers drive too slow in the built-up area, what results in risky overtaking maneuvers. And a completely useless is the honorable but not very effective custom of applying for an official permissions in situations where people should quietly proceed in certain cases for example with minor rebuilding on housing’s cooperative or public property area, there is no way to get an official permission anyway, and if we are found without it, it’s easy to wiggle out of it, so if you have a business do it quietly yourself and God speed.
At last I’ve got a sort of good practice for you, although I can’t be sure if anybody else could succeed in it. I’ll speak frankly: grab some books of some polish classics! Why? Because, apart from them (falsely or truthfully) improving an intellectual appearance of your apartment, they have an additional practical value. Let me explain, how it works: simply by making a point of reading Bolesław’s Prus “Lalka”, I managed to get things done in a registry office without any problems or unnecessary tenseness. The only condition: the office worker must be a woman in “in-laws age”, who would be especially delighted with the idea that not only a foreigner but even more significantly a German is reading books in Polish and not any books, the famous classic school books, - a true miracle at the Vistula. The only problem is that Prus wrote only two volumes of “Lalka” with further concerns I’ll have to try out “Chłopi” by Reymont, it at least, composes of four volumes.
(Translation from Polish by Dominika Chmielewska)